Philip Lima, BYSO ‘79, Viola, is the Assistant Chair of the Voice Department at Berklee College of Music. He is also a singer, having sung leading operatic roles for the international Kurt Weill Festival in Germany, numerous regional American opera companies, and the Handel & Haydn Society. Mr. Lima has appeared as soloist with the Boston Pops and over sixty orchestras, choral societies, and concert series across the United States and in Korea and Ukraine.
Philip’s career path has been a very circuitous one. “In college, I spent more time playing viola than doing anything else. But after graduating, I had no idea what I wanted to do afterwards. I fell into a job in the investment world, and spontaneously decided to take voice lessons after seeing an instructor’s tear sheet. I was eventually accepted into the Tanglewood Music Center and started taking it more seriously, to the point where I was able to be hired as a soloist. At the same time, I was still working in business by day, which is how I eventually ended up in Human Resources at Berklee. The Chair of the Voice Department was going on sabbatical, and the faculty knew I was a singer, so the call came.”
“There was no grand plan, no decision to follow a particular track. It was very organic.”
Despite the many different directions that Philip’s career has taken, he feels as though BYSO had an impact on him every step of the way. “As a high school kid, (G)BYSO allowed me to step into my comfort zone for the first time. I had to take a bus from New Bedford to Back Bay, and then take the train to BU every Sunday, but it was worth it because it was my only outlet. BYSO was home.”
Philip credits his music background with shaping his approach to business as well. “Music is creative – you have to learn to make things your own. Be willing to think outside of the box, be curious, be flexible, and learn to figure things out yourself. In music you also often have to create your own opportunities. And since so much of my path has been non-traditional, I find that I’m less afraid of taking risks.”
Philip also notes the value of the connections that he made at BYSO, and the ways in which those connections influenced his career. “Dennis Alves [BYSO ‘73, Director of Artistic Planning at the Boston Pops] was a few years older than me, but he took me under his wing. All these years later, we’ve continued to keep in touch. He has hired me twice as a soloist for the Pops. This was all built on knowing each other from our (G)BYSO days.”
Philip’s fondness for his time at BYSO is why he chooses to be a donor. “I know that there is some kid, who gets to be themselves, as fully as possible, because that kid gets to spend time at BYSO. I know that if it weren’t for what BYSO is doing, that kid would not have had that place where they can be the best that they can be. That’s what BYSO did for me. The fact that I could go and be somewhere that I fit in was life-saving. BYSO was welcoming to me when I was the rare black player in the organization, as well as in my high school, district, and all state orchestras way back in the mid- to late 1970s. So if there’s even a chance or an opportunity for another student to have that same experience, then it’s my responsibility to try even just a little bit to help.”
Although Philip graduated before Fed’s tenure at BYSO began, he is pleased to see Opera being included in BYSO’s programming thanks to Fed. “Performing opera is a whole different type of collaboration – you have to learn to be flexible to match the singers, and learn to listen and react. The students get the opportunity to understand what it is to be part of a cast telling a story. It really expands their horizons, and Fed’s love for Opera is infectious – it’s a wonderful and important part of their training, and I applaud him for it.”
Philip’s advice for current BYSO students is to “take any learning experience that you can – you never know how you’ll use it. Be curious, and try new things. Learn from your peers at BYSO – you are surrounded by folks who are passionate about the same thing that you are, and who are efficient and capable. And as musicians, I would suggest checking out dance! Some of the orchestral and classical pieces you learn are dance movements or waltzes, so learning the dances helps put the music in context.”
Are you, or someone you know, a BYSO alumni with a cool or interesting story or life update to share? Contact Jessica Chen, Development & Alumni Relations Associate!